If you're 65 or older, you may be asking what this pandemic means for you. You likely already know that due to your age range, you're at a higher risk for mortality from COVID-19. Should you do anything differently? Possibly change your living situation? What about relatives or loved ones? There haven't been a lot of clear answers, especially from the media. Depending on your situation, the answers may vary from one person to the next. But some key points have emerged from the madness that answers some of these questions.
Senior living facilities are being hit, especially hard. This is because the virus thrives off human interaction, where it can be spread easily. Communal living situations are ripe for this transmission. The population of seniors is also susceptible due to health problems that come naturally with aging. This creates a virtual "perfect storm," which has caused much panic among those who live in nursing homes and retirement communities. But it doesn't mean there aren't measures you can take to give you a better chance.
Firstly, you should absolutely do things differently. Your daily routine likely consisted of human interaction and maybe getting out for a bit. These things both need to be curtailed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay home as much as possible. Don't go out unless it's necessary, and even then, avoid human interaction as much as possible. You should be washing your hands much more frequently and avoiding touching your face in any way.
Should you live in a retirement community, stay in your house. This is not a time to visit the neighbors or travel to Florida for warmth. If you are married or have a life partner, you don't necessarily need to isolate from them unless you have symptoms consistent with the virus, such as a cough and fever. Keep in mind that there's up to a 14-day incubation period for the virus. This means a person can have it and actively be spreading it without having any symptoms for two weeks. Every time you go out, you increase your risk of contracting and/or spreading it.
If you live in an assisted living facility, group dining, and recreational activities should be canceled. If they're not, don't attend. Stay in your room or home as much as possible and avoid contact with high-traffic common surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, etc. These should be sanitized regularly as well. Any non-essential appointments or service you have, such as a haircut, should be canceled, as you never know if that person may be infected. Any excursions should be avoided.
Those who live in a nursing facility will, unfortunately, require quite a bit of interaction from the medical staff. Try to stay in your room and minimize any contact that isn't essential. Practice good hygiene and insist others do the same. If you're concerned, ask the staff what guidelines are being enacted to minimize COVID-19 exposure and risk. The CDC recently released new guidelines that apply to skilled nursing facilities during these times. They should be aware of and following these.
The wrong thing to do is panic or think that leaving your current situation will make you safer. This is likely untrue and will increase your risk of exposure. Though there are indeed "hot spots" in the nation right now, no one knows where the next one will be. Likely, it'll be wherever people are fleeing to, so don't increase your risk by doing the same. Phone calls are a great way to stay connected with others without increasing exposure. If it's a publicly used phone, make sure it's sanitized, though.
Everyone has the right to information, which can save your life during this time. If you're worried about something, ask someone. Make sure to maintain proper social distancing of at least six feet. COVID-19 is especially deadly for those who have underlying health conditions, so those who do should continue any medical treatment. Rest and proper nutrition are the best ways to ensure your body is in its best shape possible to stay healthy. Above all, know this will pass, so any discomfort due to following these precautions will be temporary.